Category Archives: General Commentary

My Book: 30 Practical Tips for Better Photographs

Our photographs express our unique personal view of this world. Through our photographs, we are visual storytellers. We grasp fleeting moments in time, with images that help us remember special events, places, and people in our lives.

Because they tell our life story, our photographs have intrinsic value. We might even discover that some of our photographs are “priceless” to us, so it is worth spending a little time to learn how to take better photographs since we value them so much!

These days, most of us have cameras with us all the time, built into our smart phones. You can take a great photo with your phone, but there are some significant limitations with these devices. Of course, the best camera is the one you have with you at the time you need it, so that smart phone in your pocket or purse can really be handy at times.

If you have taken the next step into the wonderful world of photography, you may have bought a camera that has all kinds of wonderful features which will allow you to take a much better photograph. Some cameras have several automatic modes and other features you possibly find confusing or frustrating. You might occasionally get some really nice shots, yet other times, the camera doesn’t do what you want it to do and you are frustrated with the results. I wrote the book, “30 Practical Tips for Better Photographs” for you.

Lots of people think they just need to buy a better camera to take better photographs. Then they experience disappointment when the “better camera” isn’t taking better pictures. The real key to better photographs is to learn what YOU, as the photographer, need to DO to take better photos.

The camera is just a machine, getting smarter and smarter with each new product introduced, but it is STILL just a machine. No matter what camera you own, if you learn how to operate the “machine” better, you will get better results!

My book offers 30 practical tips to create consistently better images by showing you how to control the most important features of your camera. Put these recommendations into practice and you definitely will get better photographs!

I don’t want you to accidentally take a good photo every once in a while. My goal is to help you discover what you need to know to take great photographs consistently, not accidentally!

Whether you are using a digital SLR (DSLR), a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses (MILC), or a fancy point-and-shoot camera, this book will help! Sometimes I might mention Canon or Nikon or Sony specifically, but much of what I cover applies to other brands as well. Canon and Nikon and Sony make great cameras and they dominate the current photography market, but other camera brands such as Pentax, Olympus, Fujifilm, etc. are also good cameras. Don’t think you need to go out and buy a Canon, Nikon, or Sony if you currently have another brand.

I recently saw an ad online for a used camera and the ad said: “Takes great pictures.” That would be like posting an ad for a paint brush and saying: “Paints great paintings.” What matters more than how fancy your camera is, is how well you know how to use it.

I have taught photography workshops to beginner and advanced students for many years and I am well aware of the challenges photographers face that sometimes lead to disappointing results. My experience in teaching is what has led me to include the various chapters I included in my book. There is a lot more to photography that could take hundreds of books to cover, but I tried to distill it down to the most important things you need to learn to begin to master your camera.

I hope you’ll buy a copy! And also remember I reach a broad range of classes.

Happy Picture Taking!
Kevin Gourley

Readers are saying: “highly recommend” “many useful tips” “easy to read, learn and apply” “an excellent book for anyone wanting to improve” “very well written” “explains camera terms in a way that you understand” “a wonderful guide” “a great resource” “this book should always be in your camera bag


Reaching Back a Few Years

I have loved photography for quite a long time, since my high school days over 40 years ago. I wholeheartedly dove into photography, learning everything I could, sharpening my camera skills, then learning B&W and Color darkroom techniques. I did my own film developing and printing. I did studio work, portraiture, landscapes, nature, really all aspects of photography, all while in my teen years. I even taught my first photography classes back then as well!

In a nostalgic way, I sort of miss those days when we created images on film and had to wait to see the results after the images were developed, and I miss the long hours spent in the darkroom. It was truly a different craft than what photographers do today. I miss it, but I’m not ready to go back to shooting with film. It is a bygone era, except for a few folks who are going “retro” and having fun with film, exploring the world I knew so well so many decades ago.

Looking back on all of my wonderful experiences with a camera in hand, I am grateful for the memories. I’ve included a few images, below, that I created wayyyyy back when I was a teen.

In whatever type of photography you pursue, I hope you find the part of it that you LOVE.

Kevin Gourley


Let Us Know: Preferred Times for Adding New Online Classes

Your Input Matters!

Help us decide the best times for us to offer more online photography classes!  We have a variety of different types of classes, but we’d love to know what times best serve YOUR needs!

ALSO: Would you be interested in an ongoing group where we meet regularly and give out projects for the group to do and review results?


CLICK HERE to complete the brief survey!


Rough Waters

Wow, I feel like we have all been having to navigate through rough waters since March 2020! In January 2020, my business was going great! Then March hit, like a sudden unexpected storm and my world totally changed, as did all of yours.

Now it looks like the storm is not only continuing, but getting worse, with hospitalizations climbing and the city of Austin teetering on the brink of entering into “Stage 5” with further orders to curtail business activity. Officials are trying to NOT go there, but this still means we all need to do what we can to avoid this pandemic from getting worse, and this is really hard on a studio photography business.

I really hope to ride through this storm and not have to give up my studio but with each month this is frankly getting harder since I have a space that has now sat empty and unused for months, even though I have monthly overhead of rent, utilities, Internet, phone, security monitoring, insurance etc. Thus the reason I have been scrambling to transition over to offering online classes to at least keep my business afloat during these hard times.

I am still intent on persevering through this and not letting this shut down my business. In fact, I haven’t really ever seen my business as just being about “business” and not even just about “photography.” What I really have cared the most about is the PEOPLE I have met along the way, people like you, all of you, truly wonderful people.

I have strived to use my business as a community service in a variety of ways, helping a wide range of nonprofits or individuals who are making this world a better place, and hosting our free Monday night LifeInsights group that is open to all, and is about just bringing our community together, to encourage ways we can “love our neighbors” more. I am intent on keeping this going, so I thought I would just reach out to you all, if you might be inclined to help me keep this venture going. Here are ways you can help:

Several months ago, I took advantage of that program by GoFundMe where they offered a $500 matching grant in their Small Business Relief Initiative. I really had no idea what the response would be, but it turned out to be truly overwhelming and humbling. (I admit, I shed a tear or two when I witnessed your kindness.) At the time when I set that up, I had no idea just HOW hard it was going to be on my business in the subsequent months. Your donations were like a lifesaver to my business. As this crazy COVID-19 storm continues, my business still faces tough challenges. IF any of you feel inclined to donate to the GoFundMe campaign to help my business, you can still do so. All donations are appreciated. I actually feel embarrassed to even ask, so I am not really “asking.” You have all been so immensely generous already. You have helped us get through several really hard months, but it appears more hard months are ahead, as we now have been forced to cancel several major workshops recently. Still, do not consider this as me “urging” you to donate to the GoFundMe campaign. I just wanted to let you know it is there IF you would like to help in that way. To say I am “grateful” is a huge understatement. I will never forget the kindness and generosity you all demonstrated.

Online Classes
Make sure you check out my various online classes I am offering now.
Click Here
Also remember one thing I am doing to help others who have also been financially hit hard by this pandemic, I now have made the pricing be variable, so you can set the price when you register, based on your ability to pay.
– I have a class coming up next week on Adobe Lightroom Classic.
– I have a new class on managing LIGHT for better photographs starting on July 21st.
– And if you are just starting out in photography or want a refresher on the basics (or if you have a friend who might be interested), check out my Photography Essentials class. I will continue adding more classes in the weeks ahead!

Private Instruction
With this private learning option, we can focus on your specific photography needs and your schedule! We can do this online via Zoom video conferencing from anywhere. It’s easy to set up! Plus I have added a new program that I call “Teaching on Retainer” where I am your resource any time throughout the year, for an extended amount of hours at a much-reduced price. I have several photographers who have already taken advantage of this option.

Join Us in LifeInsights
LifeInsights doesn’t cost anything and is always free to attend. We have totally moved this online, so you can connect via Zoom video conferencing from anywhere. It is just a way to connect with others, to hear other perspectives, and to be heard. During this pandemic especially, we need to stay connected to one another. We do a variety of different things, just open discussion, occasional online “happy hours,” as well as TED Talk watch parties and discussions, book discussions, and occasional guest speakers, inviting people who are working to make this world a better place. We have been meeting for over 2 years, and we intend to keep meeting, and would love for you to join us any time. You can always check out what we’re doing by going to this web page.

I am looking forward to calmer seas. This storm will pass.

Love you all,
Kevin Gourley


The Smell of Rosemary

In these crazy uncertain times, I know many of you are under such stress maybe due to your business being shut down, or you lost your job, or you are in the COVID-19 “high risk” health category, or you are fed up with people arguing “mask” vs. “no mask”, “shut down businesses” vs. “don’t shut down businesses”, and the seemingly unrelenting bickering by the immensely politically polarized world around us.

I am frankly tired of the “noise” of it all. We can focus so much on what we have lost, that we lose sight of what we have in abundance all around us.

Gail and I go for a walk every morning, usually 5-7 miles or so. I call these my “sanity walks.” They are my escape from all the chaos. Since we are not around others, we walk without masks, and the world just feels “normal” as if we were not even in the midst of a major pandemic disaster. We talk about life. No tweets or posts popping up. No emails or news notifications. We are just walking.

Occasionally, we have a special treat of having our 4 year old granddaughter Addison spend the night with us. She likes to go on walks with us in the late afternoon, usually around 2 miles (and for a 4 year old, 2 miles is a long walk). Addison brings along a little bag, and she calls these walks “nature walks” as she’s always finding a leaf or twig or acorn to put in her bag.

Every time we pass by a rosemary bush, Addison stops, rubs her small fingers on the fragrant needle-like leaves and breaths in the wonderful smell of rosemary. She smiles and says in her cute little 4-year old voice “I love the smell of rosemary!”

That is our routine. Every time we pass rosemary bushes, Addison has to stop and smell the rosemary again, and remind us yet another time, just how much she loves the smell of rosemary.

I also love the smell of rosemary, and every time I pass a rosemary bush, I think of Addison and how thrilled she is to encounter a rosemary bush.

There is so much about this world around me that reminds me that this world is still a beautiful place, and I have SO much to be thankful for.

In spite of the chaos. In spite of the uncertainty of each day. In spite of all that is “wrong” in the world, there is so much that is beautiful, so much to be celebrated, so many sights, sounds and smells of nature that are wondrous. If only we would pause long enough to appreciate it all.

I love the sounds of the birds. I love the bright array of colors of the flowers. I love the slight cool breeze in the morning before it gets hot outside. I love the sunshine. I love the rain. I love the deer we sometimes encounter. I love seeing the other neighbors out walking as we say “hi” each day. I love holding the hand of a 4 year old while I walk. (Those are special occasions.) And yes, most especially, I love the smell of rosemary.

Since we have been doing these walks, I have been taking snapshots with my iPhone of some of the sights I have encountered on my morning or evening “sanity walks.” The point isn’t really about “great photography,” at ALL. I am not on a mission to photograph. I am on a mission to escape and simply walk. It’s about SEEING the world around me, and simply affirming the beauty I encounter each day.

I encourage you to take some time to experience the world around you more, pushing aside the distractions and chaos. Don’t miss the beauty that is ALL AROUND YOU.

Look for some rosemary bushes. Smell the rosemary.

Kevin Gourley

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When Life Feels Totally Out of Your Control

I can definitely affirm my life is “not going as planned” for this year. I bet most of you can relate! There is so much going on in the world around us right now, so much stress, so much hardship. We face so many unknowns about our health, our future, our jobs, our businesses, our economy, our lives.

Basically all we can really do is make the best of the situation, whatever it is. The truth is, we never really DID have control over most factors in our lives. Sure we have control over the choices we make, at least to a degree. But really, most of the time, we move along with an illusion that we have things under control. We assume life will go on, but it might not. We assume our loved ones will be with us, but they might not. We assume we will have the same job tomorrow we had today, but we might not. We just assume so much will be the same tomorrow as it is today.

Then something big happens. We lose our job. A pandemic hits. We are diagnosed with cancer. Whatever it is, we have those moments where we suddenly face a new reality. Some refer to those times as a “rude awakening.” I don’t know about you, but I would prefer “soft gentle awakenings” rather than the rude awkenings.

Either way, maybe it is a good thing to be “awakened” from time to time. We might just start to see how much we have taken for granted in our lives.

We need to find ways to navigate through these hard times, and we don’t have to do it alone. For me, my faith is an important part of my life (I’m a Christian). I find God really has to slap me on the side of the head from time to time to get my attention. And usually if I pay attention, I learn something I needed to learn. (Maybe I am a slow learner.) 😉

For others of different faiths, I suspect your faith is an important part of your life also. And for some, if that’s just not something that’s a part of your life, I respect that . We are all different.

I think we all have opportunities where can agree the world would be a better place if we loved one another more and I think we ALL need each other to get through these challenging times.

If your life feels totally out of control, or if you are like me and the isolation we are all experiencing is getting old and you just need to talk to others. I want to invite you to join our LifeInsights group that meets (virtually) on Monday evenings. ALL are welcome, regardless of your world view, religious affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, or political leanings. We just get together, put aside differences, and do book discussions, TED Talk watch parties, invite fascinating guest speakers, or sometimes just hang out together in a virtual “happy hour” and share what’s going on in our lives.

We’d love to have you join us, any time!

Want to know more about our
LifeInsights group and current schedule?

Stay safe my friends. Remember you don’t have to go through all this alone.

With gratitude for each day, even the hard ones,

Kevin Gourley


Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day my friends. My photo on this blog post is actually from almost 3 decades ago, when our daughters were little. Nothing in my life has mattered more to me than being “Daddy” to these little girls who are now “all grown up.”

I am so grateful to have photographs to help remember these moments in our lives. At the time when we take a photo, we might not even realize just how much we’ll cherish that image years later.

Keep that in mind with your photography! Capture those special moments. Celebrate and honor this beautiful experience we call life.


Enjoy Today

Here is your public service announcement for today:

As you wait for better days, don’t forget to
ENJOY TODAY, in case they’ve already started.

– Robert Breault

These have been stressful times. Let’s make the best of it. Do good for others. Take good care of yourself.


Washing Away the Chalk Art

It’s a rainy day in Austin, Texas.

Just a few days ago, we were making “chalk art” on our front sidewalk with our granddaughter. Since then, every time I walked by her artwork, I smiled.

Then the rains came and washed it all away. Gone are the precious creations of a four year old artist.

Life has its moments when we smile, when we create or experience something beautiful, and moments when the rain comes.

We can either focus on what we lost, or see this is an opportunity for a clean slate, new opportunities, new experiences, and a new set of memories.

That is the lesson of life. Appreciate the moments as they happen. Never take life for granted. In an instant everything can change.

All we can do is embrace change as a part of life, and not lament the passing of what was, but instead look with faith and anticipation for what comes next.

For now, enjoy the rain.

Get your chalk ready.

Kevin Gourley


another imperfect day

Happy Mothers Day to all of you mothers on this special day.

I wish this day could be better for you and for all of us. Due to our COVID-19 pandemic, our situation is far less than “ideal.”

If your mother is still alive, you might not be able to take her out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. You might not even be able to visit her. Maybe the best you can do is make a phone call.

It’s just another imperfect day as we deal with this pandemic.

For Gail and me, this is our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Last year, we thought about maybe going on a cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary. I am SO glad we didn’t book a cruise! That would have been a big mistake. So how did we celebrate today? We went for a walk (as we do every day).

It’s just another imperfect day as we deal with this pandemic.

We all have choices to make in how we deal with this time of crisis. Regardless of the hard times we face, the limitations we encounter, and the disappointments of all that is not going as we planned, we can pause and remember to see the good in the midst of it all.

There is still so much to be thankful for. This has all been a huge reminder that we are really not in control, and all of our life plans are “subject to change without notice.” That is a reality always, not just in the midst of a viral pandemic. We can always find things to be thankful for. Let’s do that. Let’s be thankful for what we CAN be thankful for, and just make the best of this.

I wasn’t sitting on the deck of a ship watching the sun rise over the ocean as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. I was walking hand-in-hand with Gail on a street in our neighborhood. The morning was beautiful. The weather was perfect. The birds were singing. We are alive. We don’t need a cruise ship to celebrate.

My mom left this world 15 years ago. I can’t call her to say Happy Mother’s Day. I wish I could. I wish I could hear her voice one more time. I can still celebrate Mother’s Day by living in gratitude for the gift of life Mom gave me.

I could list so many other ways life is very “imperfect” right now for so many of us. But you know, I think life is still beautiful, even in the midst of the imperfections.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Live in gratitude. Celebrate life.

Today (and every day), celebrate Mothers.

On this beautiful imperfect day, Happy Mother’s Day!